“Poetry” is more meticulous melodrama from South Korea’s Lee Chang-dong, after “Secret Sunshine,” graced with a lead performance by once-retired actress Yun Jeong-Hee. She plays Mija, a 66-year-old grandmother in a nameless backwater, given to flowery garb, who discovers a death has been caused by a relative who lives with her, all the while an elderly employer harasses her sexually, and she discovers that she may be suffering the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The fathers of those who committed the crime are devoted to covering up the crime, erasing any mention. Lee’s storytelling is more evocative than that pile-on of plot summary, alternating the large tragedy of a young girl’s death with her own oncoming loss of memory. What to do? Take a poetry class. Losing language, she learns to love it, and its literal meaning, and its deeper implications. “A flower as red as blood,” she writes, and the story’s strands twine into something stronger, deeper. Yun is splendid in another language: the complex and elegant body language she brings to all of her transactions. Mija is creating something from the nothing the men around her have provided in her life. She and the film build implications of the larger world through incongruent bits of language, uncertain behavior, poetry, certainly. 139m. (Ray Pride)
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.